Start a Container Garden this Spring!

By Matt Shand

A great first step towards self-sufficiency is to try growing some organic herbs and vegetables. If you’re resourceful, your residential situation should not be a hindrance on what you can accomplish, thanks to container gardening. If you can provide a container, soil, organic seed, and an occasional watering, then sunlight and mother nature will do the rest. You’ll be nomming on homegrown salsa before you know it.

Finding The Right Container

For starters, you’re going to need some containers. Depending on what you’re growing, you can get very inventive here. Herbs can be grown in drinking glasses or old coffee pots, while vegetables requiring additional space for roots can be grown in old backpacks, heavy-duty garbage bags, or my preferred method, 5 gallon plastic buckets. As a general rule, if something can hold dirt, chances are you can use it for gardening. No matter what container you end up using, it’s a good idea to poke a couple holes in the bottom so that excess water can drain out as necessary.

Craigslist is a great resource for free ‘junk’ that can be upcycled for gardening, as are moving sales and garage sales. If there are Firehouse Sub Shops in your area, they sell their used 5 gallon pickle buckets for $2, which then goes directly to their charitable non-profit for firefighters and public safety. Thrift stores might have old buckets or trashcans, and if all else fails, you can purchase new gardening containers from stores like Walmart or Home Depot.

Getting Your Hands on Dirt

If you own or rent a home, or know someone who does, all you need is a shovel (and permission!) and you should be able to fill your containers with soil in no time (although you may wish to mix in some organic fertilizer to ensure your plants receive proper nutrition). If you live in an apartment or in a city, you can purchase topsoil, potting soil, and humus (fertilizer, not the condiment) from the garden center at any warehouse store.

I Feel the Need… The Need for Seed

Cheesy subheadings aside, getting organic seed is pretty painless – once you’ve decided what you want to grow, that is. The main variables to consider are temperature and sunlight. A little internet research upfront can save you loads of trouble in the long run. Simply search for whatever you’d like to grow and the region that you live in. Googling ‘growing potatoes in Georgia’ will tell you there’s a short season to grow in the spring before it gets too hot, and a long season to grow in the milder fall and winter months. Growing indoors is a game-changer, especially for herbs, so don’t be afraid to experiment!

When you’re ready to pick up seed, keep in mind grocery stores often sell organic packet seed, and mostly all garden centers should have them on hand. There are also numerous websites from which you can order organic seed: www.botanicalinterests.com is known for carrying a wide variety of organic heirloom varieties, and Amazon.com has an array of merchants as well.  Worst case scenario, you can purchase seedlings or young plants and transplant them to your own containers, though it may be difficult to find organic seedlings (not to mention half the fun of growing anything is planting the seeds and watching them sprout!)

The Power Is Yours!

With your containers filled with soil and your seed in hand, you’re ready to rock. The packets the seed came in should have instructions on how to plant the seeds, the depth and spacing, how much to water and when, and other tips on how to successfully grow healthy, productive plants. You shouldn’t run into any pest or disease issues, but if you do, the internet is invaluable for finding cheap, easy, organic solutions to common gardening problems. One of the best parts of container gardening is that your plants are fully mobile. If they’re in an area that isn’t getting enough sunlight, or if they’re getting too much sunlight, you can relocate them without too much hassle.

That’s all it takes to start your own organic container garden. In a few months, you’ll have fresh herbs on hand to experiment with in the kitchen, and loads of fresh vegetables as well! Make your own ketchup or tomato sauce, learn how to pickle cucumbers, make your own sauerkraut, or just eat everything right off the vine.